DON’T BARREL THROUGH WORK ZONE
My dad and I brought our old couch to the dump last weekend. Our old couch had shepherded two dogs through the valley of death and retained the stench, and then the new dogs came and tried their best to dig that smell out of the cushions, and then we needed a new couch. The new couch came a week ago and the old couch had done its time on our front porch (it’s like purgatory for old furniture and cat food cans out there) and then my dad arrived with his truck (we have no truck, a sore point for some of us) and off we went.
I am not a good planner of dump excursions, and we found ourselves arriving at the dump with only ten minutes to spare before it closed. So, there was no time, really, to look around. My dad might tell you otherwise. He likes dumps. He sees a dump and witnesses potential. I see a dump and think, “What a goddamn waste of stuff.”
Did we ever really need a couch in the first place? Do we need all these mattress, these chairs, these lamps? Do I need quite so many books? (Yes.) I despair of the human race’s ability to monitor itself whenever I visit a dump. We came, we used, we tossed. There’s no glory in it.
“Don’t you even want to look at the free books shelf?” my dad asked. “No,” I answered. “It smells here.” And it did, and not only of garbage. It smelled of emptiness, of desperate attempts to create meaning out of polyester, of other people’s barely repressed misery.
But! I love our new couch! It’s such a pretty color and the cushions are firm but not too firm and its pillows are orange!
On a certain section of highway, this digital sign has appeared, warning drivers DON’T BARREL THROUGH WORK ZONE. I love this sign. I consider it a benevolent sentry keeping guard on the fringes of daily routine. You’ve seen L.A. Story, haven’t you? Go watch it now if you haven’t. Go on. And then just see if you too don’t find digital reminders everywhere. Slow Down. Don’t Barrel Through. Take a Breath. Have a Seat. Stormy Weather Coming. Watch for Workers. Remember to Eat Right. Clean the Porch. Plan Better for Dump Trips.
If only we would listen.